Following a month’s break, the BTCC returned at Oulton Park as the series added another two winners to this season’s races.Astonishingly, one of those winners was former double champion Colin Turkington, who drove his Subaru home for a first ever BTCC win for the manufacturer. The win came in only their seventh BTCC race after their withdrawal of all of their cars on safety grounds from the previous three rounds at Thruxton. At the top of the championship, there was also a change of leader as Sam Tordoff now holds a single point advantage.
In the previous three or four seasons at least, Oulton Park has largely seen a procession of cars following each other around with very little action to speak of. Luckily, this season was a little different; nobody had told Rob Collard that you can’t overtake around the Cheshire circuit!
Turkington started Subaru’s unbelievable turnaround in fortunes in qualifying on Saturday with an early blistering lap that none of the other thirty-one drivers could beat. It was to be no fluke for Subaru as Jason Plato backed up his teammate’s new found speed with sixth place. An impressive Dan Lloyd joined Turkington on the front row with Tordoff in third, Tom Ingram fourth and reigning champion, Gordon Shedden, fifth.
Race One (1st Turkington, 2nd Tordoff, 3rd Plato)
The opening race of the day was surprisingly entertaining. Turkington made a clean start and retained his lead as Tordoff and Plato both made up places off the line. Lloyd lost a further place on the next lap as Shedden made one of many moves seen at Island Bend over race day. At the end of lap 5 and beginning of 6, Aiden Moffat and Rob Austin had an amazing side by side battle that lasted for nearly half a lap. Oulton Park is hardly the widest of circuits, but strong and respectful driving from both made great viewing.
The Plato of old returned on lap 7 as he ‘misjudged’ his braking to ram into Lloyd’s rear end at Island Bend, allowing enough of a gap to open for him to sneak through. The stewards post-race handed Plato a penalty for his actions. However, Plato was certainly quick, although his engine still appears to lack overall power, as he was soon pushing Shedden hard and after waiting patiently, Plato eventually took the position towards the end of the race. At the front, Turkington was in complete control and never looked like relinquishing the lead to Tordoff and he came home to secure Subaru’s first ever win. On the cool down lap, Warren Scott’s Subaru appeared to ignite, but luckily it appeared to be a different problem to the one that led to the withdrawal of the team at Thruxton – still worrying nonetheless.
Race Two (Tordoff, Turkington, Plato)
Tordoff made a better start off the line than Turkington to take the lead and Plato retained his third position. As for action at the front, that was it as the trio came home in that order, resulting in Tordoff securing his first win of the season. However, further back on the opening lap, Austin rammed Jake Hill at Island Bend, leading to Austin driving around with a severely damaged car for several laps before being called into the pits. Somewhere in the mix, Ash Sutton’s MG suffered rear suspension damage and Moffat was spat out of the pack with more severe rear end issues. His stricken car meant a one lap safety car period was needed.
The second race of the day was basically the story of Rob Collard. Having started the race in 23rd, Collard charged through the pack, in somewhat typical fashion, showing no mercy to his competitors as he made positions lap after lap. By the eighth lap, he was eighth. So much for not being able to pass at Oulton! However, his progress soon slowed as he was met by a rather wide MG of Josh Cook and Honda of Matt Neal. After disposing of Neal, Collard eventually managed to find a gap to Cook’s side on the dirty side of the start/finish line and as the pair came down Cascades, Collard was sent into a spin due to a puncture. It was a great shame to see such a fantastic performance ended in this way, but Cook managed to just hold on to sixth until the end.
Race Three (Neal, Tordoff, Plato)
Neal was the lucky man to be promoted to pole position for the final race of the day, meaning he started on the front row next to Cook with Ingram and Shedden on the row behind. Shedden was able to take Ingram off the line and by the end of the lap he was behind teammate Neal after a tap on Cook sent him off course at high-speed Druids, also allowing Ingram through. The Honda duo made sharp exits as they sped off into the distance leaving the rest to fight it out.
The opening half of the race was relatively quiet with a few overtakes here and there and a highlight being Ollie Jackson driving around with his bonnet up against his windscreen. However, by mid-distance the pressure was mounting on Ingram in third from Cook, Plato and Turkington. While those three fought it out until basically the end of the race, Tordoff was coming through the pack along with that man again, Collard, this time from 25th.
With a couple of laps remaining, Plato was able to get a better exit off the final corner and powered up and down the dip and along the outside of Cook on the start/finish straight, but somehow Cook stayed 4th, until there were cars all over the place at Island Bend. Tordoff emerged in 5th and Collard appeared out of it, but carried on. On the penultimate lap, Shedden suffered a puncture ruining the certain Honda 1-2. Tordoff however, had not finished and was able to overtake Ingram on the final lap for 2nd and Ingram’s misery wasn’t complete as Plato overtook him on the line to secure a hat-trick of third places for the day in what was an amazing day for Subaru as they came of age.
While Plato was taking a hat-trick of third places, it was even better for Tordoff who took a win and a brace of victories. Consequently, he now leads the championship from Neal, who made the most of a bit of luck with pole in the final race, and must be looking forward to Croft next, which is again favourable to rear wheel drive cars. Coming into the event, Collard was tied with Neal at the top of the standings and Collard will no doubt be devastated with his day’s points haul despite having two fantastic drives for little reward. The championship is starting to take shape now as the top six drivers start to be spread out by larger point gaps and Tordoff and Neal are starting to edge away.
Subaru were never going to be realistically challenging this season in a development year for them, but I don’t think anybody expected them to pull out of a race meeting and then come back at the next one and take a win, a second and a hat-trick of thirds. Great credit must go to Team BMR for this quick turnaround and it will be extremely interesting to see how they go for the rest of the season, although it’s probably too little too late for a realistic title challenge.
Championship Standings after Round 12 of 30:
|1. Sam Tordoff||139 points|
|2. Matt Neal||138|
|3. Rob Collard||113|
|4. Gordon Shedden||112|
|5. Adam Morgan||108|
|6. Andrew Jordan||102|
Subaru Team BMR – Subaru Levorg GT (Cole, Plato, Scott, Turkington)
An amazing, historic weekend for Team BMR with 5 podium trophies to take home from the weekend. It’s such a shame Scott and Cole aren’t more competitive. 9.5/10
WSR, Team JCT600 with GardX – BMW 125i M Sport (Collard, Tordoff)
WSR, Team IHG Rewards Club – BMW 125i M Sport (Goff)
A really mixed weekend for the BMWs. Tordoff’s weekend could hardly have gone better, Collard showed amazing pace with little reward and Goff was at the lower end of the top 10 in the opening races before a problem at the start of the third race. They should be ultra-competitive at Croft next time out and will be hoping for another 1-2-3 like last season. 8/10
Halfords Yuasa Racing – Honda Civic Type R (Neal, Shedden)
Shedden looked the stronger driver over the weekend, but Neal was the one who ended up on the top step of the podium. Shedden was unfortunate with his late puncture in the final race, but generally a good job done on a track that isn’t their best. 7/10
MG Racing RCIB Insurance – MG6 GT (Cook, Sutton)
A much better weekend for Cook than Smith with a 7th, 6th and 5th achieved with what appeared to be a very wide MG. Sutton suffered a few issues over the weekend before grabbing a couple of points in the final race. The team will have better weekends. 6/10
Motorbase Performance – Ford Focus ST (Jackson, Jordan)
Certainly not one of Motorbase’s stronger performances since they returned to championship in the second half of last season. Jordan performed slightly more favourably than Jackson but they were both around 10th for the day. 6.5/10
WIX Racing – Mercedes-Benz A-Class (Morgan)
By Morgan’s recent standards, this was a really poor performance by him. He struggled with issues in qualifying and they were not resolved for the first race. A couple of low scoring points finishes in the other two races. 5/10
Handy Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Austin)
A couple of flashes of brilliance, but only a point to show from the whole weekend. 6/10
Speedworks Motorsport – Toyota Avensis (Ingram)
Although Ingram didn’t make it on to the podium for the first event this season, he finally had three consistent races with three top-5 finishes. Impressive. 9/10
Notable mentions: Just Dan Lloyd this time out. He also made it into this section after Thruxton following his return to the championship and he did well once again this time out. A strong qualifying performance wasn’t quite backed up by race results, but a good job all the same.
Next up: Croft, 19th June.